NYC councilman to propose bill to help curb light pollution by streetlights

Light pollution causes a plethora of problems throughout the world. Affecting stargazing opportunities, messing with our natural circadian rhythms, wasting energy, and killing wildlife are only a few of the serious problems caused by light pollution.

And in a place like New York City, those problems are exacerbated even more. So in honor of Earth Day, East Side Councilman Ben Kallos is going to propose a bill this upcoming Tuesday aimed at curbing light pollution caused by streetlights.

United States light pollution seen from space. Photo: Courtesy of NASA

According to Gothamist, the bill would mandate that the city use fully shielded light fixtures when replacing streetlights. “Kallos said that the measure would help limit light shining into New Yorker’s apartment windows, and also conserve energy, darken the night sky, and reduce the harmful effects of stray light on wildlife.”

Fully shielded light fixtures cover the sides of the bulbs of streetlights to ensure the light only shines straight down, instead of everywhere. The city currently only partially covers bulbs, leaving them to jut out and throw light everywhere. Add in the fact that the city is replacing all streetlight bulbs with the more radiant, blue-tinted LED bulbs and it’s a problem that’s becoming worse.

The differences between non-shielded, semi-shielded, shielded and full shielded streetlights. Photo: Delmar Fans

The American Medical Association concluded last summer that the new LED streetlights can cause serious problems:

“In addition to its impact on drivers, blue-rich LED streetlights operate at a wavelength that most adversely suppresses melatonin during night. It is estimated that white LED lamps have five times greater impact on circadian sleep rhythms than conventional street lamps. Recent large surveys found that brighter residential nighttime lighting is associated with reduced sleep times, dissatisfaction with sleep quality, excessive sleepiness, impaired daytime functioning and obesity. The detrimental effects of high-intensity LED lighting are not limited to humans.”

So now instead of the sodium yellow lighting that was shining into people’s apartments, the high-intensity blue-tinted LED light is what is leaking out by not being full shielded. The streetlights in my neighborhood were replaced with these LED lights last year. I can attest that they are obnoxious and have caused our streets to lose that nighttime intimacy that New York City streets can be so famous for.

While getting blackout curtains and going camping to reset our circadian rhythms are things we can do to combat the effects on us, New York City (and all cities) need to fully shield street lights to cut down on the other negative effects of light pollution.

Hopefully this bill can be a step forward for the city that never sleeps in helping us rest easier.

The New York City skyline at night. Photo: Fancycrave/Pexels

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